Tools for Schools is a program organized by Family & Community Support Services (FCSS) that gathers school supplies for kids both in and outside of Lacombe.
Each year, monetary donations are combined with donations of binders, markers and more to complete customized backpacks for kids based on their gender, interests, grade and school.
“Every child’s backpack is geared to their gender, their age and the school that they’re in. So, if you are a Grade 4 boy, you’re going to get a Ninja Turtle backpack. I shop for the kids that I know are applying. It’s not a generic backpack that they’re not going to love,” said Jan Pocock, volunteer services coordinator at FCSS Lacombe.
“The first day of school is very exciting for children. They can’t wait to see their new teacher and see their friends. They want new markers and crayons because (that feeling) is so exciting for them. We want every child in our community to feel that.”
The program helps out children not just in Lacombe, but reaches out to schools in Alix, Clive, Blackfalds and even Satinwood.
Supplies are gathered for all ages, from Grade 1-12. Coin collection jars will be set up in businesses around Lacombe as well as some outlying communities.
There will also be collection boxes for new, unopened and unused school supplies in various businesses. Monetary donations can be dropped into the coin boxes, however, donations of $10 or more dropped off at the FCSS office will receive a charitable tax receipt.
Each backpack is filled with special thought that is personal to the needs of each student.
“We are able to use money the most, because then I can buy what is needed. Donations are great, and I’m very thankful. But if people are wondering, monetary donations are the most helpful.”
The personalization of each backpack gives the program a personal touch for the families that are in need of the service.
“We had a little girl last year with a Minnie backpack, and she was just so happy. There was a little boy with an Angry Birds backpack and thought he just had the world. Things like that are beautiful,” said Pocock.
School supplies that are in high demand are heavy duty, three-ring binders, Crayola markers in all shapes and sizes and headphones with an attached microphone.
Schools are making a shift towards more online and computer-based programs, which requires headphones to eliminate the stress for teachers of working with 25 or more children in a lab with sound coming from each device.
Everything from good quality scissors to glue, tape and tissues are welcome. Pencils, both mechanical and regular style, are also in high demand. Blue and red pens are items common on almost every class list, as are enclosed pencil sharpeners and erasers.
“Families come in and apply. They have the child’s name, what school, what grade, the gender. Then I go onto the school’s web site, find their supply lists and make a little card and then I start shopping for them,” said Pocock.
“If there are any supplies that they don’t need – maybe they have a really great binder from the year before that you can use again – they write that down and then I don’t get them one. Families that use this service are really good about that.”
The program is entirely community driven, meaning it depends on the support and donations of the Lacombe community and surrounding area to access the goods.
“Every child deserves to be equal to the next child. The message is not a pity-party for the less fortunate, it’s allowing each child to feel confident and equal to the child from the family who may have been able to buy all of it on their own.”
The program will accept donations until Aug. 25th. To donate or apply for the service, contact Jan at Lacombe & District FCSS at 403-782-6637.